On the Trail: No July 4 vacation for presidential hopefuls

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Monitor

Published: 07-01-2023 6:23 PM

It’s a tradition in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state – White House hopefuls marching in our Independence Day parades in the year before the presidential primary.

And even though next year’s nominating calendar and New Hampshire’s position in the Democratic Party’s schedule are very much up in the air right now, plenty of candidates are still coming to march on Tuesday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will march in the Wolfeboro (10 a.m.) and Merrimack parades. The conservative governor and culture wars crusader is currently in second place in the latest GOP presidential primary polls both nationally and in the Granite State, trailing former President Donald Trump by double digits. Trump is the commanding front-runner as he makes his third straight presidential run.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who along with the rest of the field of roughly a dozen contenders is in the single digits in the most recent surveys, will also march in the Merrimack parade. Former software CEO turned North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, ex-CIA spy and former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas and Michigan businessman-turned-White House hopeful Perry Johnson will march in the Amherst (10 a.m.) and Merrimack parades.

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who’s primary challenging President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, isn’t waiting until Tuesday. The best-selling author and spiritual adviser, who’s making her second straight White House run, will march Sunday in the Laconia parade (4:30 p.m.) as well as Tuesday in Wolfeboro.

“This is an affirmation of our primary, the fact that they’re coming,” veteran New Hampshire-based political scientist Wayne Lesperance told the Monitor.

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Lesperance, the president of New England College in Henniker, emphasized that the July 4 candidate traffic “highlights the importance of New Hampshire on the calendar, especially this cycle, and it is exactly what we say when we say New Hampshire is a retail politics state.”

GOP contenders descend on NH

The week leading up to the July 4 holiday weekend also saw plenty of presidential campaign traffic in the Granite State, including a Trump/DeSantis split-screen moment that grabbed national attention.

Trump on Tuesday keynoted the New Hampshire Federation of Women’s Lilac Luncheon, which is their largest annual fundraising gala. The former president, at the gathering at Concord’s Grappone Conference Center, touted a new poll from Saint Anselm College that was released earlier in the day that indicated his lead over DeSantis expanding. The former president later traveled to Manchester to formally open his New Hampshire 2024 campaign headquarters.

Trump’s campaign also unveiled its initial New Hampshire grassroots leadership team as the former president arrived in the state.

“We just announced 150 town captains, ward captains and chairmen of all the counties and cities in the state,” Trump campaign senior adviser in New Hampshire Steve Stepanek told this reporter. “We’ll probably be adding another 150 to that so that every single town, every single ward in the state will have a Trump captain who’s a Trump supporter, and then we’re going to build a team around every single one of those people, and we’re going to train those people in the door knocking.”

Stepanek, a former state GOP chairman, predicted that “by September, we’ll probably have well over 3,000 people who will be local people, Trump supporters who are passionate about the president who are going to be knocking their neighbors’ doors.”

About two hours before Trump took to the podium at the luncheon, DeSantis held a town hall in southern New Hampshire town of Hollis, where he took questions from the audience. In the wake of some criticism that during his previous swing through the state he didn’t take questions from voters, DeSantis spent an hour answering questions at his event.

Hurd spent three days in the state this past week, including taking a tour along the northern border with Canada and a speech to the state Senate at the State House in Concord.

Hurd, who launched his presidential campaign just over a week ago, told the Monitor he’ll spend plenty of time in the state.

“New Hampshire appreciates a dark horse candidate like me. New Hampshire appreciates people who have ideas, and so this is a place that is going to be very important for me to build the operation and the momentum to go further into this process,” he said. “So you’ll be seeing a lot of me in New Hampshire.”

Entrepreneur, best-selling author and conservative political commentator Vivek Ramaswamy returned to New Hampshire this week, holding a town hall in Londonderry. And former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also campaigned in the Granite State.

Haley teamed up with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday evening at a New Hampshire GOP summer cookout and fundraiser in Manchester.

As he introduced her, Sununu praised Haley. But Sununu, who just a few weeks ago announced that he’d pass on his own presidential run, added that he’s not endorsing anyone “yet” in the state’s presidential primary, emphasizing “we’ve got a long way to go” until the state’s 2024 nominating contest.

After exchanging a hug, Haley kicked off her comments to the crowd by saying, “You’ve got a great governor.”

But then with a joke that elicited plenty of laughter, she said, “Governor, I very much worry about your health. What I’m thinking is I don’t want you to over-stress. I don’t want you to get out there and do too much. So I think what’s best is go ahead and endorse me now.”

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